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The Other Valley: A Novel by Scott Alexander…

The Other Valley: A Novel (edition 2024)

by Scott Alexander Howard (Author)

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1416196,072 (3.52)None
"Set in an unnamed valley-surrounded by other valleys, each twenty years apart in time-a masterful, moving literary speculative novel in which the Conseil determines if a bereaved resident can cross the border to the past or the future on a "mourning tour." One sixteen-year-old Conseil candidate spots two visitors from the future, but is shocked when she recognizes them as the parents of the boy she loves"--… (more)
Title:The Other Valley: A Novel
Authors:Scott Alexander Howard (Author)
Info:Atria Books (2024), 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard


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The Other Valley tells us the story of Odile, a painfully shy young girl who accidentally sees two visitors and recognizes them as a classmate’s parents, but far older than they are now. They have come from the future on a bereavement visit to see their son, Edme, before he dies. A dutiful citizen, Odile knows that she cannot warn Edme because that could change the future with disastrous consequences.

They live in a world with valley in the east twenty years in the future and the valley in the west twenty years earlier. There is a ruling conseil that decides who can and cannot make a short foray into the other valley, usually a bereavement trip to go back and see a loved one.

She almost accidentally falls into a friendship with three other classmates, onent

The Other Valley is an intriguing story with a complex puzzle at its heart. Is it possible to change the past while not damaging the future? But then, what if the future is dismal and damaged already? If you learn you will be miserable in the future, what might you do to change the path of your life?

I liked Odile a lot. Her friends were interesting and complex characters who had an existence beyond Odile’s range of vision even though we did not see it. We did see how life affected them even when she was not there. I think her mother was a bit one-dimensional but great disappointment can flatten a person.

While I understand what Odile did and how she “fixed” things, I don’t think she really solved the paradox of time. For me, the story never achieved that “suspension of disbelief” necessary to fully embrace it. I think the construct of valleys with some termporal border was just too complicated and contrary a device. I do, however, plan to read more by this author. The kinks that kept me from falling into the story did not keep me from enjoying the character and the writing.

I received an e-galley of The Other Valley from the publisher through Edelweiss

The Other Valley at Simon & Schuster
Scott Alexander Howard author site

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2024/05/10/the-other-valley-by-scott... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | May 10, 2024 |
The Other Valley is a speculative fiction novel where you can travel either forwards or backwards in time if you decide to leave your home in the valley, to see loved ones if the current ones have passed away. This has a really interesting premise, and if you love philosophy, this opens up a lot of 'what if' questions. Naturally there is a governing body who decides who gets to visit the other towns and there is a gendarmerie that protects the boundaries of the towns which are outlined by tall fences to discourage the townspeople from questioning things and leaving.

The main character, Odile, is a shy, introverted girl who is being pushed to join the governing body as an apprentice by her mother. For the first half of the book we learn about her school experiences as well as her relationships with her peers. I almost had Divergent vibes during this part of the book as the teenagers were trying to figure out the rest of their lives, discovering their career paths, and who would take them on as apprentices. Odile is a very passive character and seems to be one of those people who gets things simply because she is at the right place at the right time. We see Odile twenty years later in the second half of the book, and I really liked seeing what happened to her and the consequences of one's choices had on one's life. It shows you how you really need to fight for what you want in life because if you just settle, you can be content, but not necessarily happy.

The secondary characters were very under-utilized however, and it's a shame as there were a couple that were quite intriguing. The author used them to forward Odile's story line rather than use them to forward the plot, and there is a huge difference.

The plot itself was more philosophical in nature, and once you stop trying to understand how the timeline works, especially with the villages to the east and west, it works so much better. My scientific brain was going crazy at the beginning trying to work it all out, knowing how the butterfly effect works, knowing that you just can't wipe out whole timelines of people, so there had to be so much more to the stories the students were given. Once I relaxed and just went with it, the experience worked so much better. Now, in hindsight, the gaps are still there and I just can't let them go. In the book Odile finally understands the consequences to knowing more than she should, but I don't feel the author went far enough with those consequences. It asks the question: Is it worth the risk to change something from the past? And what are the consequences to the future if one does? These questions are not really explored. While I understand the author wanted to put the emphasis on Odile and her life and her choices, pushing the importance of world-building to the background as something that doesn't need to be explored hurts the overall story as the actions of the characters within that world don't always make sense because we don't fully understand it.

The Other Valley was quite original and I really enjoyed the speculation behind it, but that's my thing. However, Odile is the only one who really got any character development, and the pacing was uneven throughout the book, as if the author wanted to explore other avenues but wasn't sure if that was a wise route to take. Personally, I felt the ending was too predictable in such a world, too perfect, and would have like something more...philosophical. ( )
  StephanieBN | Mar 26, 2024 |
This book was mind-bending, and caused me to think about what I would do to prevent someone's death, by going back in time to change a situation. Would I act if I could?
16 year-old Odile is starting to fall for Edme, another student, and talented violinist. Her mother wants her to be part of The Conseil, where she will decide if someone can cross the town borders to another time (20 years past, or 20 years future). However, she glimpses Edme's parents trying to cross to see him when he is 16, so she knows he will die. What she does with this information changes the course of her entire life.
To follow the book, you have to suspend time and recognize that Odile is seeing herself at 16, 36, and 56. Very unique. ( )
  rmarcin | Feb 20, 2024 |
The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard is a literary speculative fiction novel which puts a new spin on time travel. It is highly recommended.

Sixteen-year-old Odile Ozanne knows her current reality is life in the town in the valley where she lives. She also knows that beyond the mountains to the west is the same town 20 years in the past, while to the east is the same town 20 years in the future and as far as she knows this pattern repeats ad infinitum. The border between the towns are well-fenced, carefully patrolled, and heavily guarded. In each town, the governing body called the Conseil are the only ones who can approve a visit to the past or the future.

When Odile recognizes two visitors from the future that she wasn't to see, she realizes the implications for her friend Edme. After Odile is accepted to compete for a apprentice position for a coveted seat on the Conseil, she is also talked to about her observations of the visitors and it is made clear that she must preserve the timeline and not intervene.

The Other Valley is a literary novel in a unique setting. It is a beautifully written examination of the substance of fate versus free will, grief and love, within a coming-of-age story that turns into a larger exploration of ethics and power. It does feel slow moving, however, and the lack of quotation marks is likely is the culprit for the lack of smooth reading progression as readers have to sort out the conversations for themselves.

The novel is divided into two sections, Odile at sixteen and at thirty-six, and Odile is the narrator. She is a sympathetic character who is always introspective. The tone of the first part of the story is more promising while the second part is rather morose. This could be an excellent choice for thoughtful book clubs.

Science fiction aficionados may find some time travel continuity problems in The Other Valley. Concentrating on Odile's story and simply going along with the plot will allow you to overcome any questions. The final denouement is very satisfying. Thanks to Aria Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.
http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2024/02/the-other-valley.html ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Feb 14, 2024 |
This smart, imaginative novel asks some big questions through a propelling and heart-rending love story.

If you could go back in time and save someone and change the course of your future, what would you risk?

The Other Valley imagines a series of identical valleys. Going in one direction, you would find yourself in a Valley twenty years back in time, the most dangerous place to visit, while the other direction took you to a Valley twenty years into the future.

Life was regimented in the middle Valley, focused on preventing an alteration in the timeline by irresponsible visitors to the past. Conseilors judged who could travel across the borders based on reasons and impact to the timeline. Visits were tightly controlled, and the border of the Valley patrolled by guards.

Odile’s mother is determined her daughter will accomplish what she could not: passing the exams to become a conseilor, with all the privileges it brought. Odile was a star student when her best friend, Edme, disappears. When his body is found, she crashes and drops out of the program, deep in depression. She is drafted into the Guards, her life regimented and her work patrolling the perimeters of the Valley hard and lonely, especially as one of the few women in the service.

Now in her thirties, she runs into Edme’s best friend who had also spiralled after Edme’s death. He is determined to go back in time and save Edme’s life, altering their reality to a better life.

Odile was about to received a captaincy and a marriage of convenience to a man she does not love, but which would improve her quality of life. Does she risk all to return to the past?

What sets this novel apart is the psychological insight and the existential questions raised. With elements of a fantasy, a romance, and a character-based novel, it’s intelligence elevates it to a novel of ideas.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book ( )
  nancyadair | Oct 27, 2023 |
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"Set in an unnamed valley-surrounded by other valleys, each twenty years apart in time-a masterful, moving literary speculative novel in which the Conseil determines if a bereaved resident can cross the border to the past or the future on a "mourning tour." One sixteen-year-old Conseil candidate spots two visitors from the future, but is shocked when she recognizes them as the parents of the boy she loves"--

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